USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Garland Cooper, was a three-time NFCA All-American (two-time first team) and Big Ten Player of the Year at Northwestern University. In 2012, Garland was inducted into the NU Hall of Fame having helped the Wildcats to a pair of Women’s College World Series appearances. She was also a first-round pick of the New England Riptide in the 2007 National Pro Fast Pitch College Draft. Garland is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Recruiting is changing.
College coaches now routinely evaluate athletes online, rather than relying solely on in-person assessments. Athletes can search rosters and proactively contact coaches by searching for their information on the Internet. The digital age has swept through the recruiting landscape, and continues to revolutionize the entire process.
Club and high school coaches are not immune to these digital trends. In fact, many are turning to technology to streamline their recruiting efforts and make it easier to connect their athletes with college coaches across the country.
I recently talked to Nelson Gord, founder of the Illinois Travel Baseball Club and a former collegiate and professional baseball player, to learn more how club coaches use technology when it comes to recruiting—and how their athletes use this to their advantage.
What do you think is the club or high school coach’s role in recruiting?
A travel team or high school coach’s job is to develop the athlete’s skills and create opportunities for them. The athlete’s job is to communicate with the coaches to take advantage of those opportunities and use the skills that the coaches helped them develop. It really has to be a collaborative effort.
How do you create those recruiting opportunities as a coach?
A lot of coaches have relationships or pipelines to certain college programs. So, they will start by reaching out to those college coaches they have a close relationship first; typically, it’s schools where they’ve sent athletes in the past. And then from there, they will start to do more outreach to other schools and bring athletes’ programs of interest into the mix when possible.
They’ll rely heavily on established relationships, but the more they can access college program’s information online, the easier it is for them to do outreach outside of their contacts. They’ll even work on the social media side of things, particularly when it comes to finding college coaches and getting more information.
It sounds like a lot of work!
True-the hardest thing for a club or high school coach is to manage the recruiting process for all of their players. It’s just not scalable at a higher level. If you’re just working with a roster of 12-15 players, you might be able to manage it. But many of the club programs will have 200 athletes or more, and if each athlete expects that process to be managed by the club, it’s impossible. So, the clubs who have the most success rely on technology to streamline their efforts, knowing they can’t do it all by themselves.
Remind me: How does technology fit into all of this?
Technology plays a big role. The more college coaches know about a player, the easier it is to make faster and better decisions. I think about it this way: A program director or club coach is essentially the CEO.
The coaches and program directors who are successful have the tools to understand how their athletes are progressing in their recruiting. Coaches need to know how many players have video available or have their transcripts out there for college coaches to see. If you don’t have an understanding of that, you won’t be able to provide the level of opportunity that you could have otherwise.
Do you have any stories about how technology has shaped your recruiting?
Prior to joining Team Edition [a recruiting technology platform for club and high school coaches], most of the players we had stayed pretty regional and ended up going to just a few different programs. And then in just the last three or four years, we had players go to schools that I’d never heard of before, a lot of high academic DIII schools. But these guys never would have connected with them if not for their use of technology. I just don’t have the bandwidth to talk to all those coaches.
What can athletes expect in this new digital recruiting world?
Imagine a club has 100 players in their organization. To figure out every player’s wants and needs in a college program would require a series of 30 minute- to hour-long conversations with each athlete, which would take months of work on the coach’s part. So, it’s a huge time saver when athletes have a profile or online athletic resume that maps out what they are looking for in a school. When this important information is readily available, it helps their coaches make recommendations based on their best fit, rather than just schools where the coach has an existing relationship.